Saturday, February 6, 2010

Post Natal Blues

Now you’ve finally met your baby face-to-face, you’re likely to feel great. Many new mums even say they’re on a high for the first 24 hours after the event. But some come down to earth with a bump. About 10 per cent of new mothers get some form of postnatal depression (PND) and if you include mild forms of depression, up to one mum in six is affected. PND peaks in the first few weeks after birth but it can start any time – even six or more months later when most people assume you’re taking motherhood in your stride.

Feeling low
Most new mums feel low and tearful about the third day after delivery, roughly when milk production starts. This is the so-called “baby blues” and is probably due to fluctuating hormone levels. These symptoms only last three days at most.
PND is more severe, starts later and lasts much longer. If left untreated, it can take a huge toll on your health and how you relate to your baby.
For a condition this common, it’s strange that no one is certain about the cause. Some think hormones are the key, but research has not proved this. Besides, PND affects fathers too.
Factors that increase the risk include:
• Previous history of depression
• Unsupportive partner
• Premature or sickly baby
• Recent stresses (eg death in family)
Does PND recur?
Mums who’ve had depression often worry that it may recur if they have another baby. There is a small chance it might but it’s hard to put a figure on the risk. If you get pregnant again, try not to worry but do get help sooner rather than later. Make sure your doctor and midwife both know about your previous history. With extra support during the pregnancy and afterwards, it’s more likely you’ll prevent a recurrence, enabling you to enjoy life as a new mum.
What to look out for
Someone with PND may feel low, exhausted, irritable and unable to cope with life. Despite being tired, they may be unable to sleep. Losing interest in sex is typical of new motherhood but with PND it’s more persistent.
A depressed mum may lose interest in food or eat for comfort. Anxiety, guilt and feeling useless are common. She may feel she can’t look after her baby properly and become obsessed with the baby’s health or her own. Some mums fear they may harm their baby, though very few ever do. If you suffer from PND you feel unable to enjoy things – although there may be enough good days to convince you there’s nothing wrong beyond a lack of parenting skills. But PND isn’t anyone’s fault and you can’t just pull yourself out of it at will.

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